What Exactly is Marriage Counseling?
“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility” – George Levinger
We all know romantic relationships are hard work. Like a garden, the relationship needs repeated attention, watering, weeding, and fertilizing to keep it healthy. Its always better to invest in problem prevention by addressing it early than to invest much more later when there is a major breakdown. Regular maintenance and tune ups are the key to a great marriage to eliminate or minimize greater conflicts later.
Many times, a couple can address the basic maintenance and repairs on their own. Other times, however, even with sincere effort, professional outside assessment and treatment may be necessary to help the couple. Many people take more routine care of their houses and cars than they do of their own marriage. Unfortunately, many couples wait until much damage has been done and negative relational patterns have become established. This weakens the prior strong emotional, verbal, and behavioral bonds, which contribute to layering of unresolved differences and resentment. Some researchers indicate that couples wait as long as six years before pursuing couples counseling.
Some couples have misunderstandings about what marriage counseling is and how it works. This may inhibit many from obtaining counseling earlier because they may believe it is only for serious problems, such as addiction or affairs. This often leads to a final effort before a divorce. Other couples believe that they can drag their marriage partner to counseling so that the counselor can prove how right they are and how wrong their partner is.
There is a healthy way to view marriage counseling. The following two items are helpful to have if you are pursuing marriage counseling. First, each of you must be willing to look in the mirror and face your own contribution to the problem and be willing to identify personal ways to fix it instead of blaming your spouse. Second, each of you should already have decided to stay in the relationship, not just evaluate whether you should still be in the relationship. If you are undecided, seek individual counseling first to determine your willingness to stay in the relationship then pursue marriage counseling.
So, What Exactly Is Marriage Counseling?
Marriage counseling is a type of coaching, psychotherapy, or treatment in which a counselor with educational training and clinical experience working with couples, such as a Licensed Professional Counselor. The counselor seeks to help each person in the couple obtain more insight into their relationship, resolve conflict more productively, and improve relationship satisfaction utilizing a variety of therapeutic interventions, assessments, and exercises. Although the practice of marriage counseling may vary depending on the therapist’s theoretical orientation, most marriage counseling tends to involve the following common elements:
- Identification of a specific problem (an affair, control, sexual misunderstandings, etc.).
- Active counselor participation in treating the whole relationship, not just the individual.
- Solution-focused, short term change-oriented interventions employed in the beginning.
- Clear formation of treatment goals.
- Practice steps to meet these goals.
You’ve Decided to get Counseling for your Marriage – Now What?
First, let me congratulate you on being a great investor if indeed you follow through with the proper coaching/counseling. You are making the right decision to invest in your relationship, which may pay dividends for your lifetime and that of your children and grandchildren. Second, see how marriage counseling can personally help you make a difference in your marriage.
Effective marriage counseling may utilize some of the following strategies to help you resolve your issues (adapted from Benson, McGinn, & Christensen, 2012):
- Assists you and your partner to see your relationship more objectively
- Gives you both tools to identify and change dysfunctional behavior so you can choose healthier communication styles and connect positively with each other
- Reduces the tendency to avoid each other emotionally so a safe environment can be created in which you and your partner may communicate his or her thoughts/feelings
- Improves communication (Effective marriage counseling will provide you the guidance needed for utilizing the best tools for communicating).
- Assesses each partner’s strengths and helps you and your partner build on those strengths to increase enjoyment in your relationship
I would like to assist you in changing your marriage for the better.